All posts tagged: devotions

Sermon on the Mount (cont.).

And don’t say anything you don’t mean… You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Matthew 5:37

I’ve been reading through the Sermon on the Mount for quite a while now, deep stuff. My goal is to read and blog through the entire NT, then move to the OT. Not sure how long it will take, but that’s the goal.

So this little jewel above is pretty amazing. People often get themselves in trouble when they open their mouths (as do I). As James put it:

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

James 3:5,6

I’ve come to the conclusion (which will change of course) that communication is the key to ministry. Bad communication, or lack of communication will wreak havok. I’m just going to list off these things running through my head:

  • no communication shows a lack of care and/or respect
  • bad communication leads to questions of motive (is this person manipulating me?)
  • religious jargon is out (and has been for thousands of years)
  • too many people talk just to hear themselves talk (maybe that’s what’s good about a blog)
  • we feel the need to be heard – that’s not bad as long as you listen to others more that you talk
  • being honest is always the best thing to do, and the hardest
  • without love to back them up, words are pretty useless – especially when dealing with hard situations. and…
  • love is not something you can say, it must be expressed through action (there’s got to be history). and…
  • if you have no history with someone, how can you speak into their life in love?
  • I talk too much a lot of the time…
  • I need to work on listening more, especially with my family…
  • Our lead pastor John said something interesting this week, “I’d like to use the word ‘Holiness’ instead of ‘Integrity’. I really like that, we don’t talk much about ‘Holiness’ anymore.

I should rename this to “not so” Daily Devotions… Anyway, still making my way through Matthew, and still in the Sermon on the Mount. Today it’s all about divorce (Matthew 5:31,32). Check this out:

The current U.S. divorce rate:
The media frequently reports that 50% of American marriages will end in divorce. This number appears to have been derived from very skimpy data related to a single county or state. However, it appears to be reasonable close to the probable value. The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “Probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue. However, that is only a projection and a prediction.”

Divorce rates among Christian groups:
The slogan: “The family that prays together, stays together” is well known. There has been much anecdotal evidence that has led to “unsubstantiated claims that the divorce rate for Christians who attended church regularly, pray together or who meet other conditions is only 1 or 2 percent”. 8 [Emphasis ours]. Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family said that for “…born-again Christian couples who marry…in the church after having received premarital counseling…and attend church regularly and pray daily together…” experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages — or 0.00256 percent. 9

A recent study by the Barna Research Group throws extreme doubt on these estimates. Barna released the results of their poll about divorce on 1999-DEC-21. 1 They had interviewed 3,854 adults from the 48 contiguous states. The margin of error is within 2 percentage points. The survey found:

  • 11% of the adult population is currently divorced.
  • 25% of adults have had at least one divorce during their lifetime.
  • Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significently higher than for other faith groups, and for Atheists and Agnostics.

George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented:

“While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”

original content here

We just finished a series called “What is Love?” and we hit on a lot of issues dealing with love and marriage. Yesterday’s message was a great reminder that many times in our relationships its easy for us to communicate criticism but we tend to keep encouraging and complimenting comments to ourselves – we just think it. But that is so unhealthy; we need to make sure our spouses (and people in general) know how much and why we appreciated, love, respect, etc.

What support does your church offer that is truly practical and life-changing for marriages?

Sermon on the Mount (cont.)

It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:30

…ouch! We all struggle with it, temptation – and we don’t spend a lot of time talking about it. We live in a very distracting culture, I can’t even believe what is on after 8:pm on the boob-tube (pun intended). We have a hard time finding things to watch as a family, right now old re-runs of “America’s Funniest Videos” with good ol’ Bob Sagget is our favorite.

One thing that has stuck with me and helped me is the idea of focus. Where is my focus? Check out this verse:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

I find that when I am focused on Christ, when I am doing the things that he has called me to; loving him, my family, people, serving, leading, visionizing, etc. When I am focused on the things of heaven, there is less and less room for temptation.

Another thing that has stuck with me is the whole “better than blank” idea. Which is basically the idea that there is nothing better than Jesus, no temptation, no sin, no luxury, no position, no paycheck – there is nothing better than being in relationship with him and living a life that is focused on the principles of the Bible.

Of course this short essay is no cure-all for temptation, but maybe just an encouragement to re-focus and keep my life laser guided on Him…

Sermon on the Mount (cont.)

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Matthew 5:23,24

So I just noticed that this verse says if someone has something against you, then you go to them and make it right. I think I’ve always heard this taught that if you have something against someone else than you must go and make it right. (Here is the KJV: “and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee”…no wonder I don’t read that version!). Anyway – a very interesting spin on this teaching. It says to me that it is my responsibility to be aware of how I treat people, being careful not to leave a trail of collateral damage wherever I go. As a pastor, more specifically, a shepherd – one of my highest priorities is to love people; to do my best to let them know that they are accepted and significant. I think Christ did this with people all the time – people who wouldn’t expect him to even notice them – he made them feel significant.

What is the opposite of anger? is it love? I think it is compassion. A little compassion goes a long way. Thoughts?

The words of Christ:

 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Some interesting quotes from Matthew Henry’s:

Those who extenuate and encourage sin, and discountenance and put contempt upon strictness in religion and serious devotion, are the dregs of the church. But, on the other hand, Those are truly honorable, and of great account in the church of Christ, who lay out themselves by their life and doctrine to promote the purity and strictness of practical religion; who both do and teach that which is good; for those who do not as they teach, pull down with one hand what they build up with the other, and give themselves the lie, and tempt men to think that all religion is a delusion; but those who speak from experience, who live up to what they preach, are truly great; they honor God, and God will honor them (1 Sam. ii. 30), and hereafter they shall shine as the stars in the kingdom of our Father.

We must do more than they, and better than they, or we shall come short of heaven. They were partial in the law, and laid most stress upon the ritual part of it; but we must be universal, and not think it enough to give the priest his tithe, but must give God our hearts. They minded only the outside, but we must make conscience of inside godliness. They aimed at the praise and applause of men, but we must aim at acceptance with God: they were proud of what they did in religion, and trusted to it as a righteousness; but we, when we have done all, must deny ourselves, and say, We are unprofitable servants, and trust only to the righteousness of Christ; and thus we may go beyond the scribes and Pharisees.

Wow – every time I read stuff like this I am reminded of how far outside of the orbit of Christ I allow my life to drift. I still orbit, meaning my life still revolves around Christ and living for me is about being a part of what God is doing – but sometimes I just orbit way to far outside of his light, his blessing, and his holiness. Lucky for me, my life is not dependent on how well I do, but how much I trust God and allow him to bring me in closer.

We are going to sing that song this week, Closer by Charlie Hall… interesting.